Mother of crash victim shares seat belt mesage
Tammy Ryden, whose daughter was not buckled up when she was killed in a vehicle crash, recently completed a tour of Louisiana during which she met with more than 300 law enforcement officers and urged them to issue as many tickets as they can to unbelted motorists. Ryden’s tour of all nine regional Louisiana State Police troop headquarters was part of her “Write One for Rachel” campaign to promote seat belt use.
Ryden’s 15-year-old daughter Rachel was killed in February 1999 when the pickup truck in which she was riding was hit head-on by another vehicle and rolled two or three times. Rachel, who was not wearing her seat belt, was ejected from the truck and died instantly from a massive skull fracture.
The Rydens are from Norman, Okla. but Tammy Ryden’s seat belt safety activities cover many states. Her tour of Louisiana was sponsored by the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In recent years, more than 60 percent of people killed in crashes in Louisiana were not wearing their seat belts. Ryden believes enforcement of seat belt laws is a key to saving lives and she is committed to spreading that message to law enforcement officers.
“You may never know which one ticket will save a life,” she tells officers. “It is my belief they all will.”
Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, accompanied Ryden on her recent tour of Louisiana as part of the nationwide observance of Click It or Ticket month in May.
“Law enforcement officers are accustomed to witnessing firsthand the terrible injuries and deaths that result when unbelted motorists are involved in crashes,” LeBlanc said. “However, the officers were really moved by hearing Tammy Ryden tell them about Rachel’s death. I believe those officers left the meetings with Tammy deeply committed to enforcing Louisiana’s seat belt laws.”
Ryden says the response she gets from law enforcement officers after telling Rachel’s story is overwhelming.
“I had an officer tell me that in 15 years he had never issued a safety belt ticket but after hearing Rachel’s story, that was all going to change,” she said.
Louisiana law requires that all vehicle occupants, including backseat passengers, wear safety belts and that children under the age of 13 wear a safety belt and/or be restrained by an appropriate child safety seat regardless of seating positions. The state has a “primary enforcement” law for safety belts, meaning that officers can stop and ticket a driver that they spot not complying with the law.
A 2010 survey found that 75.9 percent of front-seat passengers and drivers in Louisiana were buckled up, an increase of almost one percentage point over the previous year. However, only 69.7 percent of pickup truck drivers and passengers were buckled up, the lowest seat belt usage rate among all vehicle types.
The 2010 survey found that 58 percent of backseat passengers over 13 years old were buckled up in accordance with a 2009 law extending Louisiana’s seat belt use requirements to all vehicle passengers. A survey completed prior to the law taking effect showed only 27 percent of backseat passengers buckling up. Prior to the 2009 law only front-seat passengers and children were required to wear seat belts or be seated in a child safety seat.
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